This past weekend, to celebrate my birthday, Joel and I took a trip south to the Island of Putuoshan. He had a three day weekend because of a Chinese holiday so we thought we would take advantage of it. Putuoshan, or Mount Putuo, is the location of one of the 4 sacred mountains in Buddhism and has several beaches and lots of monuments and amazing scenery. We were wanting to get out of the city for a few days and spend some time in nature.
With the help of one of Joel's coworkers we booked the fast boat to Putuoshan. It included an hour bus ride to the port and then a three hour boat ride to the island. So we woke up early and headed to the bus terminal around 7:30 to catch our 8:15 bus. On the ride over Joel received a phone call from his coworker telling us that our boat was cancelled. Ok, it is China. We have to be ready for these kinds of things. He said we could exchange our tickets for a bus ride to the closest big city by the Island (about a four hour ride) and then a short ferry over to Putuoshan. When we got to the bus terminal, the guy who sold Joel the tickets originally recognized Joel (we stand out quite a bit) and helped us to exchange our tickets. The bus ride was interesting... actually not too bad. It ended up taking about 5 and half hours because of the traffic leaving Shanghai. The bus stopped once for everyone to get a snack and to use the restroom. Not too eventful of a ride. When we got to the dock to take the ferry over to the island we did run into some trouble though. Our original tickets included the bus and the boat... so we assumed that our new tickets included the same. They didn't. Lost in translation- when we tried to ask where we got on the ferry the ticket lady said we need to buy tickets (this was after 20 minutes of trying to understand each other) and sold us bus tickets back to Shanghai. Lol, it's funny now. We were so confused though when nicely she sold us the tickets and then walked us over to where we needed to wait in line, and a bus pulled up. After 5 hours on the bus there was no way we were getting back on! Joel finally called his coworker to translate for us and we got our new tickets and got on the ferry.
We arrived on the island and showed our hotel name to someone who was waiting and our hotel bus picked us up and took us to the hotel. The front desk girls were very nice and helpful but didn't speak english so it took us a while to get checked in. What we didn't know was that we had to pay cash up front for both nights that we were staying there. We learned our lesson here because while we had enough cash to pay for it, that was all we had. We figured we would just pay for it and then head to an ATM to get more for the rest of the weekend. Wrong. There were two ATMs on the entire island and it took us until 8pm that first night to find one. And guess what...it was closed for the night. Yep. So, with the $100 RMB we had left over from the hotel room (about $15) we paid for entrance to one of the monuments and had dinner. Luckily the street food is cheap, so we had a few stuffed buns from the street vendor and then ate instant noodle soup in our room later.
Other than the money thing our first day on the island was pleasant. The weather was a little cool but we spent the day walking around, getting to know our way around and seeing the beautiful beaches and scenery. We were exhausted from traveling so we were ok with not going out to dinner and just enjoyed walking around and eating our street food. Our hotel room wasn't the best but it was clean and we had a nice view of one of the beaches.
The next day our first goal was to go back to the ATM to get some money and then start touring the island. We got back to the ATM and guess what...it still was closed. Not just closed... out of money. Now we started to get a little worried. With only about 50 rmb left in cash we didn't think we would get very far. We used part of it to get into a monument and the rest for a light lunch, which was really good. It was this flat bread cooked with egg and chives on it, for about $1 a piece. Finally around 1pm we found the other ATM and got money! We were so excited! The rest of the day we spent walking the island. The main attractions were super crowded because of the holiday weekend but once we hiked up the stone trails a bit the crowds thinned and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The scenery was so beautiful. We went to several temples and just wondered around. We also took a tram up to the top of Mount Putuo, which was totally not worth it. We should have just hiked. We had to wait in line for an hour, with a really obnoxious family behind us. Then we had to ride in the tram with them. Instead of using our tickets to take the tram back down we walked. It wasn't too bad of a walk, about 45 minutes and a thousand stone steps. We opted out of a restaurant for dinner again since the weather was so nice and instead bought a few more stuffed buns and a few beers and sat on the beach listening to the waves, and the karaoke going on next to us.
The next day, we slept in and managed to make it to see some of the sights we had missed. Like a cave of tidal sounds...not as cool as it sounds. It was actually really funny that it was an attraction, it just was waves crashing into rocks, which you could see anywhere on the island. We had the flat bread again for lunch because we loved it so much and then headed to the boat dock to start our journey back to Shanghai. I have to admit something, at this point I was getting really sick of the Chinese tourists. Joel handled it better than I did but I was really annoyed. Everywhere we had been where there was a crowd they would push and shove each other out of the way, the would spit and yell, even inside, and they littered everywhere. Here we are on this beautiful island and there was trash everywhere. I would see them just discard full bags of trash on the side of the trail. There were trash cans everywhere. It really isn't that hard to get your trash into the can. They would even throw the trash next to the trashcan. Really?!? Come on. Oh man. Plus I got really sick of the staring, even though I do try to be understanding with that. I realize some of them just honestly have never seen blonde haired people. I had to take a thousand pictures with people also. The young boys would stop me everywhere we went and ask if the could take their pic with me. It got a little annoying when I was just trying to enjoy myself... but I was nice about it. I could never be a celebrity.
So anyway, our trip home was pretty easy. Luckily the fast boat ride wasn't cancelled this time because it was actually very pleasant. Big comfy seats and a quick 2 1/2 hour ride then an hour bus ride from the port into the city and we were home. First thing we did when when got back? Went to eat American hamburgers. Lol. We had a good trip, learned some lessons about traveling in China and took some amazing pictures. Hopefully next trip we will be a little more prepared...